Why some people can ward off burnout and others can't

Stress and burnout are two distinct things, but often stress — and the physical and mental fatigue it creates — leads to burnout.

Those who successfully ward off burnout are able to tap into their emotional intelligence to increase resilience to stress, according to the Harvard Business Review.

This finding comes from a study in which researchers assessed 35 CMOs at 35 large hospitals for their stress level and aimed to determine how they deal with burnout. While 69 percent of the CMOs described their stress level as severe, very severe or worst possible, most were not burned out, according to a scale called the Maslach Burnout Inventory. Researchers' subsequent interviews with these CMOs illuminated how they kept their stress at bay: high emotional intelligence.

This is because emotional intelligence supports optimal coping abilities, which helps people manage chronic stress and prevent burnout, according to the report. For instance, self-awareness, one of the major tenets of emotional intelligence, enables individuals to identify the sources of their frustration and anxiety and ultimately enhanced their ability to consider the best response. Self-management, another important emotional intelligence competency, allows people to stay calm, control impulses and act appropriately when dealing with stress, according to the report.

Other tenets of emotional intelligence, such as conflict management, allow people to transform stress and anxiety into a problem-solving mindset. Compassion and other positive emotions can counter the physiological effects of stress, according to the report.

Here are five tips to prevent stress from snowballing into burnout, according to the Harvard Business Review.

1. Don't create your own stress. Many people have a habit of stressing themselves out by thinking about or anticipating future encounters or events that can be stressful.

2. Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. If you can identify your own limitations, you will know sooner when you will need to ask for help, thereby mitigating the stress caused by doing something outside of your capabilities.

3. Breathe deeply. When you feel tension and anxiety rising rapidly, employ a deep breathing practice to calm yourself down.

4. Change your perspective. Changing your perspective of a particular situation can bring your stress level down substantially. For example, you can see a situation as a threat to your personal values, or you can see it as a problem that needs to be solved.

5. Put yourself in others' shoes. When an interpersonal conflict is the source of your stress, try thinking from their point of view. Ask questions, listen to what the person says and try to understand where he or she is coming from. By demonstrating that you understand their perspective, you will be more likely to gain their trust and influence.

More articles on leadership:
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MGMA president receives Maverick of the Year award

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